My attitude, as well as my experience, with cruising has evolved over the years. Aging has probably helped, I guess.
In the beginning of our 80 plus country visits, we took a short two-day rafting trip on the Kern River and an eight-day journey through the scenery and rapids on the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon. They were fun, exciting and very interesting, but you could hardly call either one cruising.
We were very committed to land and bike tours because we felt you could see and experience more of your destination and the people than on a cruise.
Our travels bore that out. The thought of being penned up in a confined boat space with a few thousand people did not seem very appealing.
In 2002 we took our first journey on Cruise West (CW); unfortunately, they are no longer in business. They tried to expand too fast. The compromise to our bias was that it was a small boat. It had about 100 passengers and we loved traveling through the inside passage of Alaska.
It was only seven or eight days and we tacked on a land extension to Denali National Park and Fairbanks.
Had a great time and so we changed our mantra a bit and said small ships will be okay, but what we saw on the larger city size ships reinforced our bias on that score.
Two years later we happened upon Sea Dream Yachts and took a seven-day cruise with 90 or so guests down the west coast of Italy. It was terrific and luxury compared to CW. We followed up with a week in Sicily. The combination worked well again.
Sea Dream still does these super, seven-day, luxury-style cruises, but now it’s a little more on the pricey side.
Comfortable with our new outlook on short, small boat cruises with a tack-on land tour, the next year we engaged CW again to go through the Panama Canal and on to Costa Rica, where we spent an extra five days.
In 2006 we decided to expand our horizon a little with a Viking River Cruise that housed about 150 passengers and took us from Moscow to St. Petersburg. We followed that up with a second Sea Dream cruise from Dubrovnik to Athens.
We enjoyed Viking, although the food was kind of Russian. Sea Dream was again a real treat.
Now we were feeling our cruise oats, so to speak, so the next year we took a Quark Expedition from Ushia, Argentina to Antarctica and then a CW cruise around Japan.
Antarctica was fabulous once we got there. The Japan cruise offered some of the most beautiful gardens.
All in all, we were definitely enjoying our version of cruising.
In the following years we took a number of cruises. Here’s a capsule look at each and what we liked on a scale of 1-to-5 (5 being best).
In 2008 we took a new Regent cruise with 480 of my closest friends from Dubai to Mumbai, India (2) and added a land package of India highlights (5).
The following year we joined 150 people on a Tauck river trip from Amsterdam to Basel, Switzerland (5) with small add on to Berlin (5).
2010 had us on two Travel Dynamics cruises with 150 people. The first one was across the Great Lakes (4) with the addition of Toronto and Quebec (5) and then in the fall we went down the west coast of Africa (4) with a fascinating trip through Mali (5).
In 2011 we took our first Oceania cruise with 1,250 guests. Went to the Caribbean which wasn’t much (2) but we loved the boat (5).
The next year we joined 250 passengers on a Seabourn journey from Venice down the Adriatic (2)—poor choice of ports and tours, with an attitude. Adding Vienna was (5).
Come 2013 we joined Holland America with 1,250 passengers to Alaska with our adult kids (5). About the same time Gabriele and kids took National Geographic to Alaska with 30 guests (5).
Then in 2014 we took an amazing trip on the Upper Amazon on National Geographic (5) followed by an add-on to Machu Picchu (5).
The next two years we went back with Oceania, 680 passengers, from Lisbon to Rome (5) and then Miami to L.A. through the Panama Canal. Exciting the second time (5).
In 2016 we tried Ponant, success to Travel Dynamics to Iceland (3), after a stop in Amsterdam (5)—mediocre food and tours.
Come 2017, we were back on Oceania, Miami to Rome (4). Eight days at sea were a delight.
The small ships get up close and can dock at most ports. The big ships need bigger ports and often have to use tenders to get people ashore. The small ships in places like Alaska and Antarctica get into more places and can watch the calving of the icebergs, for example. The big ships look at it from a distance.
Although not super small, you can tell we really like Oceania. We’ve been on four of their cruises. We even like their bigger ships more than the smaller ones. They’re casual, comfortable and well organized. The food is good in a variety of dining venues.
In addition to the main dining room, there are up to four specialty restaurants at no extra charge; a buffet available for all three meals; an ice cream bar and hamburger/sandwich café. They have laundry facilities, a good gym and overall ambiance at a modest price.
Overall, it’s been a great adventure on the high seas that we’ve enjoyed very much.